Mitt Romney has an empathy problem. Regardless of whether he's actually an empathetic guy, Mr. Romney remains the son of a wealthy man who then went out and made another fortune buying companies and firing people. He's still the guy who says that questions about income inequality amount to the sin of envy, he's still the guy who manages to say the words "I like to be able to fire people," he's still the guy who offers up a $10,000 bet to prove his point. He's still the guy who drove to Canada with the family dog in a kennel on top of the car and who responded to evidence of the family dog's distress by stopping at a car wash to rinse it away.
In a time of great economic distress, that's a problem for a presidential candidate.
Last night on the show, Steve Kornacki of Salon talked about Mr. Romney's empathy problem and the photo Salon posted yesterday -- they took it for Mr. Romney getting a shoeshine, when in fact he's getting wanded by security. Today, Steve asks whether a photo like this, of Mr. Romney seated and smiling in his nice suit while a uniformed worker bee toils away, would be such a problem for a different kind of candidate:
[U]nlike Gingrich and the rest of the GOP field, Romney embodies the super-wealthy/corporate-type that Democrats like to accuse Republicans of coddling – making it much harder for him to credibly reject the charge. A Republican nominee running on the same platform but lacking Romney’s aristocratic bearing could more credibly reassure voters that he’s not doing the bidding of plutocrats.
So no, that's not Mitt Romney getting a shoeshine on that tarmac. It's just a candidate who's wide open to the charge that he's too rich and too invested in being rich to understand your life. Look for the White House to keep capitalizing on that with more talk about income inequality.
(Last night: The TRMS dogs/Romney segment)